- Shanthal Perera
- Feb 18, 2022
At the end of their first year at Western University, Andy Ly, BA’20 and Justin Li, HBA ’21, had made a momentous decision.
After a daily diet of “every shade of brown” fried foods, it was time to take their health, and fitness, seriously.
They made a pact and started visiting the gym and eating healthy. However, there was one thing they couldn’t give up.
For millions of people from East and Southeast Asian culture, bubble tea (or ‘boba’ tea) is an institution. It is the social equivalent of hitting Starbucks or Timmies and sharing a beverage with friends.
Ly and Li were regularly drinking two to three cups of bubble tea a week and were caught in a conundrum.
When you think of fitness, the first drink that comes to mind isn’t bubble tea… but what if there’s a way to combine the two together?
Justin Li, HBA ’21
And that's what they did.
Chakra Nutrition is a bubble tea flavoured whey protein powder. Mixed with water, it provides customers the joy and comfort of a good cup of bubble tea, without the guilt of excess sugar and calories.
Their first product is a two-pound signature milk tea protein that includes 30 servings, with 27 grams of protein and 121 calories.
Ly and Li worked on product development for a year, trying to figure out a composition that could deliver on both the taste and health fronts. Starting their venture during the pandemic also helped them plan their ingredients and supply chain carefully, and many of the components that make up Chakra Nutrition are Canadian-based.
But as two recent graduates, they didn’t have a lot of capital to spend on advertising, especially after devoting much of their cash towards inventory. Yet in the age of social media, Ly and Li had the perfect platform in Tik-Tok to launch their brand.
Within three months, they gathered 11,500 followers, over 1.3 million views and more than 157,000 likes.
In December 2021, Chakra Nutrition launched online.
The results caught Ly and Li by surprise as their entire first run was sold out within a few hours. After reinvesting their profits for a second round, they outdid themselves, selling out within a few minutes.
It might seem obvious to say that Ly and Li had found a problem worth solving, but the question remained; how big of a problem?
A bubbling opportunity?
Over the next few months, Ly and Li are working on a strategy to discover the size of the market and how best they can serve it. They are also working on introducing new flavours and more size options.
Additionally, Ly and Li are planning to introduce tapioca pearls to round off the bubble tea experience.
Throughout the past year, they have been working full-time while developing Chakra Nutrition. They have drawn on their education, even created dedicated shared folders with various frameworks from marketing, operations, strategy and other courses to figure out each piece of the puzzle.
“It was almost like cracking a case… doing the industry analysis, business size-up, looking at our financials, and all of that,” said Li.
Another key influence from their time at Western has been the network of friends and colleagues they developed. Many of them have gone on to launch their own startups during the past two years, including Marlow and Apricotton.
It’s only after you graduate school and begin to reflect that you notice how talented, and smart people around you at Western are... I’m really grateful to have surrounded myself with so many passionate and hard-working individuals.
Andy Ly, BA’20
As they continue building Chakra Nutrition, Ly and Li are ready to learn and grow with the brand, while helping fellow fitness-conscious, bubble tea enthusiasts enjoy the best of both worlds.
It seems you don’t have to give up all the best things of life.